First Draft Excerpt from 'Gifts Of The Mother'

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Everyone was there on time. Us, Mom, Julie's parents (her mom was matron of honor), RaDonna and her husband. Judge Jefferson came through to say he would be right back, and went back into his chambers.

That was about ten seconds before the blood-curdling scream.

We all froze for a few seconds. I was the first one to snap out of it - just before this ugly gray-brown thing that looked like a cross between a toad and goblin came through the door. Huge mouth that stretched halfway across its head, filled with tiny little teeth. Big bug-eyes, pebbly skin, crouching bipedal stance, and black razor claws at the end of its 'hands'. "Havva!" I jumped back while performing the banishment spell. Julie and RaDonna were almost simultaneous to me, while Roland was perhaps half a beat behind - but his spell was different, and his voice had dropped a couple octaves. No matter; it vanished. Roland stopped his incantation mid-word.

"What the hell was that?" Mom screeched at the top of her lungs.

"No idea!" Julie and I chorused before RaDonna said, "Trog. One of the weaker demonic minions."

"Did you say demonic minions?" Mom screeched.

"Yes, Mom, she did. Because that's what they are. But screaming isn't going to help, and panic definitely won't." I was vaguely conscious of Julie dealing with her outraged parents; at least I wasn't outnumbered in trying to control my mercurial mother.

Suddenly, Mom's eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed in a heap on the carpet. "Don't use that one too often," RaDonna said, "But when I need it, comes in right handy. She'll sleep awhile. Most likely won't remember what she saw when she wakes up, or she'll think it was a dream."

"Ra' you are full of surprises." Now to help Julie with her parents, as I heard her say, "No, Mom, Mark did not get me involved in gang activity. Did that look like a gangbanger to you? It's a long story and now is not the time for it. Dad, trust me when I say I had every bit as much to do with why that creature was after us as Mark!"

"Will that trick of yours work on a couple more targets?" I quietly asked Ra'.

She shook her head no, "Not like it worked on your Mom; they're not nearly so agitated. You're going to have to talk them down the normal way."

Roland helped us out, "SILENCE!" he ordered. He was much better than I was at intimidation; Julie's parents shut up. "Your daughter and her fiancée were asked to try and help our people. Beyond all hope, and at some cost to themselves, they succeeded, but doing so made them an anonymous enemy with some ability in the arcane. I and my wife and every other member of our people is indebted to them, and would like to aid them in defeating this new enemy. But now is not the time for recriminations, nor for detailed explanations."

"Thank you, Mr. Adedeji," I replied, hitting record on my phone and headed back towards the judge's chambers. I had a pretty good idea what we'd find. "If someone could please call 911? And Julie, if you know who's in charge here in the courthouse on the weekends, it would be a good idea to get them involved sooner rather than later. A second witness to what I'm afraid I'm going to find wouldn't be amiss, either."

"I shall accompany you," Roland followed, and RaDonna pulled out her cell phone, dialed and put it to her ear. Julie grabbed her Mom and headed out the door; her father hesitated, then followed his wife and daughter when Ra' made to follow her husband and I.

Inside was about what I'd expected - the judge's body was lying in a still expanding pool of blood. I didn't investigate closely, but it was slowly leaking out four long ragged parallel gashes in his chest, leaking rather than spurting with the beats of a heart. Although it hadn't been more than a few seconds, the judge's heart was already trying to pump air. He didn't stir when I tried to find a pulse on his neck. If the pain of being slashed like that had sent him unconscious, it was likely a blessing because there was no way anything I could do would save him.

I cursed under my breath. I'd just met the judge for the first time so not getting married today was the big result for me, but Julie must have been on good terms with him. Nuts.

"Police and paramedics on the way," RaDonna said, "Not that the paramedics are going to be able to help with that."

I stopped recording. "Okay, so what are we going to tell the police?"

"Pretending we didn't see the trog is probably our simplest and best option," Roland opined.

"I don't know if either Julie's parents or my mother will go along with that version of events."

"Your mother probably isn't going to remember a thing," Ra' told me, "The spell I used is a kind of magical judo; it used her own agitated energy against her."

I resolved to ask her to teach it to me; or at least inquire of Zeb. "That leaves Julie's parents, and if my mother does remember, good luck trying to shut her up."

"So we treat her as somehow misremembering due to her level of excitement, assuming we can get Robert and Miriam to agree," Roland replied.

"That shouldn't be too difficult; most folks want to pretend such things don't exist," RaDonna added. It seemed she and her husband both had experience with people given inadvertent glimpses of life behind the metaphorical curtains.

"If Julie's parents don't agree?"

Roland was practical, "We cross that bridge if we come to it."

"Any ideas why it attacked the judge?"

"I presume your wife and yourself are applying a shielding spell every morning?" I didn't correct him; he and Ra' had been raised within an elven culture, and elven culture considered pregnancy a marriage.

"Yes, we are."

"Then it seems likely that whomever sent the trog knew where and when, but was unable to pierce your shielding." I hadn't interacted much with Ra's husband in the past; but his grasp of the situation illustrated some of what Ra' no doubt saw in him. In less than fifteen minutes, he'd earned my respect several times over.

"So either they were someone we told the specific time and place of our wedding, or someone we told informed them."

"That would seem logical."

So now I had to figure out who the mole was, and whether the information being shared was inadvertent, in ignorance of the receiver's hostility, or intentionally supporting people who meant to kill Julie and I.

Copyright 2022 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 7, 2022 7:00 AM.

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